Running Workout Routine: Hill Sprints

At The Run Experience, we are BIG believers in hill sprints! Check out Coach Kirk’s best tips and running workout routine for introducing them into your training.

Running Workout Routine: Why We Like Hill Sprints

What’s that saying? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

While running up a hill SUCKS, we do often find that the heart rate always comes down, you find your breathing again, the feeling comes back to your legs, and life goes on.

So, what’s the point of enduring the pain?

As with most things running: the harder something is, the more it’s doing for us.

Hill work gets our endurance up. It gets us used to the feeling of struggle.

We also love hill work because it’s a lower impact way to sprint.

In this running workout routine, you can demand a really high effort level from your body without having to deal with the aftermath and “body beat-up” that flat ground sprinting can cause.

Running Workout Routine: Hill Sprint Tip #1

running workout routine

When running up a hill, you’ve got to stay tall!

As runners going through something challenging, our instinct is to put our head down and grind through.

The reality is that we hinder ourselves by doing it this way.

Keeping your head up and pushing your hips forward will give more power to each step of your stride and eliminate any opportunity for low back pain.

So…recruit those glutes and hammys, keep your head up and maintain strong form all the way to the top.

Running Workout Routine: Hill Sprint Tip #2

running workout routine

Keep your cadence up!

The number of times your foot hits the ground should NOT change from flat ground to a hill.

It’s tempting to slog up a hill with the biggest, fewest steps you can take.

But if you’ve ever done it this way you should know how hard that is to maintain, how fast it passes you, and how ineffective it is in keeping your speed consistent to the top.

In this running workout routine,  you’ll want to keep your cadence at exactly what it was when you were running flat.

The way to do this is to SHORTEN YOUR STRIDE.

Keep those feet right under your hips, drive the hips forward as you stay tall, and keep moving.

You’ll exert a lot less energy this way, which will keep the engine running for a lot longer before burning out.

Running Workout Routine: Hill Sprint Tip #3

running workout routine

Don’t neglect your upper body!

Let’s break that down further.

One of our body’s first instincts, as we attempt something challenging, is to freeze or tense up.

The muscles in our shoulders, chest, and arms unnecessarily start to engage, clench and fire.

It’s our natural physical instinct to employ everything we can think of and grind through the challenge that is this hill sprint.

But, what is this additional muscle engagement doing for us? Is it making us any faster or lighter getting up this hill?


In fact, it’s making it way harder for you to stay tall and keep that cadence up.

Your stride loses all its opposition and with that, a lot of its power.

So…if it isn’t serving you, get rid of it. Drop those shoulders,  shake out your arms.

Now that we’ve done that…


Your arm swing is half of your power source.

Without it, you aren’t going anywhere.

So get those elbows in tight to your body and exaggerate each pump of your arm.

running workout routine

The best sprinters in the world have their hands flying way up past their ears with every step.

If you need more help getting this dialed in, here’s a drill we love.

Running Workout Routine: The Workout

The only thing you’ll need for this workout is a hill with a gradient that allows you to employ tips 1-3.

We recommend something around a 5% incline.

Here’s what you’re going to do:

  • Start with a 20-30 min easy, flat warm-up run.
  • You should be warm and sweaty by the end of it.
  • Now you’re going to do 4 rounds of a 15-second ALL OUT sprint up your chosen hill.
  • Between sprints, you can rest FOR AS LONG AS YOU NEED.
  • The point of these sprints is to max out your effort level.
  • Starting the next sprint before you’re recovered will defeat the purpose.
  • Make sure you move around and stay warm during your rests, but don’t start the next sprint until you feel ready.

After your last sprint, make sure you spend 5-10 minutes cooling down and recovering before finishing with some mobility. Here’s an idea.

Hill sprints will make all the difference in your training. Implement this running workout routine into your plan for some awesome, immediate benefits!

Looking for another running workout routine? Enjoy 2 FREE WEEKS of running, strength & mobility training with us! Tons of great, at-home workouts that will have you running faster in no time!